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Windows 7 Startup Repair Tool automatically diagnoses and fixes startup problems

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, Greg Shultz takes a look at the Windows 7 Startup Repair Tool and explains how it works to automatically troubleshoot and repair the operating system.

We've all encountered startup problems with previous version of the Windows operating system, and Microsoft has always provided us with lots of tools for fixing those problems. For example, in Windows NT we had the Emergency Recovery Utility, in Windows 2000 we had the Recovery Console, and in Windows XP we had System Restore, just to mention a few. Of course there were many other operating system native tools, but they all involved a manual, user-initiated operation. Not so with Windows 7's Startup Repair Tool!

One of the many troubleshooting features in Windows 7 is a utility called the Startup Repair Tool. What makes this tool stand out among its brethren is that it is designed to intercede at the first hint of an operating system startup problem. When a startup problem is detected, the Startup Repair Tool will launch an automated, diagnostics-based troubleshooter that requires little, if any, user intervention, and in many cases it will resuscitate an unbootable system.

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll take a look at the Startup Repair Tool. As I do, I'll explain how it works.

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What types of problems does it repair?

As you probably know from firsthand experience with previous versions of Windows, startup problems are some of the most difficult to troubleshoot, and sometimes it seems that the best way to fix the problem is to just reinstall the operating system. While the reinstall method offers a surefire resolution, it is time-consuming and could be avoided more often than you might think. In some situations, the solution is as simple as replacing a single file or altering a single setting. This is the type of problem that the Startup Repair Tool will automatically take care of for you.

For example, the Startup Repair Tool can automatically repair the following problems:

  • Missing/corrupt/incompatible drivers
  • Missing/corrupt system files
  • Missing/corrupt boot configuration settings
  • Corrupt registry settings
  • Corrupt disk metadata (master boot record, partition table, or boot sector)
  • Problematic update installation

How does it work?

When Windows 7's initial loading sequence detects a startup failure, it automatically fails over to the Startup Repair Tool. Once the Startup Repair Tool takes control, it begins analyzing startup log files for clues as to the source of the problem and then launches a series of diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the startup failure. Once the Startup Repair Tool determines the cause of the failure, it attempts to fix the problem automatically.

If the Startup Repair Tool successfully can repair the problem, it does so and then reboots the system. It then notifies you of the repairs and files a detailed report in the event log that clearly identifies the cause of the problem as well as the solution.

If the Startup Repair Tool can identify the cause of the problem but can't repair the problem by itself, it will display a menu titled the System Recovery Options that provides access to a set of tools that you can use to manually troubleshoot the problem further. (I'll cover the tools on the System Recovery Options menu in more detail in a later edition.)

If the Startup Repair Tool is unsuccessful in its attempt to identify or repair the problem, it will roll back the system to the last configuration that was known to work. The Startup Repair Tool will then add detailed information about the problem to the Windows 7 event log.

Saving time and money

As you can imagine, the automated system provided by the Startup Repair Tool will save administrators and help desk personnel from expending valuable time fixing simple problems. In addition, the event log reporting feature will help administrators and help desk personnel to quickly understand the problem for further troubleshooting as well as enacting preventative measures.

Additional options

Another way that the Startup Repair Tool is a boon to administrators and help desk personnel is via Group Policy. In Windows 7, Group Policy settings provide full control over built-in diagnostics, such as the Startup Repair Tool. These Group Policy settings will allow administrators to disable portions of the default resolutions, provide an enterprise-specific resolution, and even customize the tool to prompt the user to seek assistance and display enterprise-specific contact information.

What's your take?

Have you encountered a startup issue that automatically launched the Windows 7's Startup Repair Tool? If so, what was your experience? Did it fix it without intervention? What was the cause of the problem? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

9 comments
Ollie Octopus
Ollie Octopus

I have used it numerous times and it has NEVER worked for me.

xmlmagician
xmlmagician

@ OP Please do not take this the wrong way but have you actually ever used it or you just right about it? I will agree with the comments above that it is an inefficient tool at best. If you have hours upon hours with nothing to do you can go ahead and use it. When it comes to enterprise environments, if not on VMware then imagining and backups are your only realistic options.

dhamilt01
dhamilt01

Quoting your article "files a detailed report in the event log that clearly identifies the cause of the problem as well as the solution." Well the report may "clearly identify" but you don't "detail" WHICH of the umpteen dozens of event logs in Windows 7 the report is put in. Not having to search all over hells half acres to find it would certainly help the lowly IT Administrator, maybe more than the details in the report. Wouldn't you agree Greg?

mike
mike

Hasen't doen squat for me and I have seen it run on a variety of systems never fixing a thing!.

DaveLissa
DaveLissa

....IMHO. Used it twice and it didn't repair the issue either time. I had to manually repair. Nothing beats a good backup.

desilvav
desilvav

... less, like all other MS stuff (it is micro ...) and you need a degree in English (US), a US lexicon and a Phd in computing and a waste of time - takes hours. I just have a working image of each system and recover to the last working backup. In my 30 years of running large systems 25,000 nodes, the best has been VMS (someone did not read the release notes, used an undocumented indexing feature and I had to repair a system as it was online to comply with a contract requirement) and OS-X when a friend spilled coffee on my system, and I just plugged the last TimeMachine, made a cup of coffee and 30 mins later had a working system

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Has the Windows 7's Startup Repair Tool diagnosed a problem for you recently? Was the tool able to troubleshoot and fix the problem?

rtroy56
rtroy56

I'm still a big fan of VMS long after I last used it. Of course, what a lot of people don't know is that Windows NT had a lot of VMS influence in it. Unlike VMS (DEC) engineers, many of today's MS Windows 'engineers' prove frequently, IMHO, that they have little clue about how computers work.

billfranke
billfranke

Yes, it tried a couple of times, but I have to agree with desilvav: It's useless and takes hours. It couldn't find the problems so it never fixed anything. All it ever did was recommend that I use Windows Restore. I've used that a couple of times, but the first two -- many years ago with Win 98 or maybe it was XP Pro -- it screwed up my system so badly that I had to reinstall everything. Fortunately, the last time I tried it -- a few months ago with Win 7 -- it worked and I was happy with the result. And it didn't take much time. The only other comment I have about Windows 7's Startup Repair Tool is that I'll never use it again. I make daily backups of all my important files (2 copies) and would rather reinstall the OS and the programs that I actually need than have to see that "Sorry, but Windows 7's Startup Repair Tool couldn't find or fix the problem. Would you like to restore...?" nonsense.